NEWSOME, CARMAN SUMNER (21 Jun 1912 - 17 Jul 1974), teenage cowboy, movie star of the late 1930s, musician, and leader of a prominent Cleveland jazz band, was born in Stafford, Kansas. 

The son of Nellie G. Walker (29 Aug 1885 - 8 Jan 1917) and Charles Sumner Newsome (13 Jan 1888 - 13 Oct 1962), he was the grandson of a freed enslaved man named George Washington Walker. The year Newsome was born, his grandfather bought a ranch, and by the age of nine, he was working on his grandfather’s ranch and breaking horses. 

When Carman was in his teens, his family moved to Ohio and lived for three years in Bellefontaine, near Columbus. Then, the family moved to East 83rd Street in Cleveland, and Carmen enrolled in CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL at East 55th and Central. The 11th grader found himself surrounded by music. He learned to play the tenor saxophone and clarinet, read music, and was a member of various Central High jazz bands. Eventually, he formed his band of Central High Students, including three Central High Students that made it big in the world of jazz  - trumpeter Freddie Webster, Harry "Pee Wee" Jackson, and trombonist George Early.

He graduated from Central in 1932. For five years, his 11-piece Carman Newsome Band played all over Cleveland - the old Heat Wave at the Majestic Hotel, the Furnace Club, Cedar Gardens, the Cabin Club, the Hyland Club, the Suburban Club in Garfield Heights, and over radio stations WGAR and WHK. The band included Cleveland jazz legends William "Shep" Shepherd, who later played with Dizzy Gillespie's big band; Harold Arnold, who later played with the Lucky Millinder Orchestra; Andy Anderson, and Bernard Sims.

In 1937, Newsome’s band had a gig at the famous Cotton Club in New York City's Harlem when he met Oscar Devereaux Micheaux, a film pioneer who wrote, produced, directed, financed, and distributed his films. Micheaux was the first Black producer to direct a silent film and the first to direct a talkie. Most of Micheaux's movies were “race films” produced for Black audiences featuring Black casts. The 52-year-old producer offered the young musician a job. Newsome broke up his band and went to work for Micheaux handling the sales and distribution of his movies to about 250 picture theaters targeting the black audience across the country.

In 1938, Micheaux picked Newsome as the male lead in God’s Step Children, based on an unpublished book, Naomi, the Negress by Alice B. Russell, Micheaux’s wife. Newsome played Jimmie, the co-star of the film, as an adult. In 2008, Time magazine picked God’s Step Children as one of the top 25 movies on race ever made.  

Newsome, called the “dark (Clark) Gable” by a Cleveland movie critic, went on to star in four more Micheaux’ films about contemporary black life: 

Swing (1938), based on a story called “Mandy.”  Newsome plays Ted Gregory. 
Birth Right (1939), based on a novel by T.S. Stribling, Newsome plays the role of Peter, a young, Black Harvard graduate. 
Lying Lips (1939), Newsome plays Benjamin Hadnot. The film also featured Robert Earl Jones, the father of James Earl Jones, one of America's most distinguished and versatile actors. 
The Notorious Elinor Lee (1940), Newsome plays Norman Haywood. 

In Cleveland, Newsome’s films played at the Cedar and Strand Theatres after first runs in the GLOBE.

On 11 Sep 1942, Newsome enlisted in the Army. He had served six months when he was discharged for a tumor that had gone undiagnosed when he entered the service. He returned to Cleveland and took a job with the Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation in EUCLID

In 1970 Newsome retired because of health problems. He continued to give free music lessons to youngsters at the Bell Center for Children on East 81st Street, hoping to engender in them some of the same musical interest he had developed when he was a student at Central High School 40 years earlier. 

According to a March 1971 PLAIN DEALER article, Newsome and his fellow teachers at the center worked with youngsters between the ages of 8 and 18, teaching them to play horns, reed instruments, guitars, drums, and piano. Newsome was quoted as saying, "At first, we show them the most simple way to play current hits. This makes them hungry to learn to read sheet music and to improve their instrumental technique." Newsome was proud that some of his students who had dropped out of school were encouraged by their new interest in music to return to school. 

At the age of 62, Newsome, the victim of brain and lung cancer, diabetes, a stroke, and pneumonia, died at the Cleveland Veterans Hospital on 17 Jul 1974. At the time, he was living on Wade Park Ave. NE in Cleveland. 

Jim Culley

Chapter 8. Central High School, Joe Mosbrook, Cleveland’s Jazz History, 2nd Edition, pp. 87- 100


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